Sierra Leone, my home country, was once the hub of quality education in West Africa. The Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone (1827) is West Africa’s oldest university and Africa’s third oldest university after Al-Azhar University, Egypt (972AD) and University of Al-Karaouine, in Fes, Morocco (859AD). As a result, scholars from different parts of West Africa came to Sierra Leone to receive quality education. What’s more, my father, Dr. FID Bannerman, rose to my prominence as a result of his passionate advocacy for education in the region, and my family home at Rawdon Street in Freetown became a stopping place for many West African scholars.
Sierra Leone is a country blessed with abundant natural resources, numerous institutions of learning and various governmental initiatives. It was an emerging market in West Africa with a very bright and promising future until civil war erupted in the 1990s. It’s worth pointing out that this catastrophe had been brewing for years: there were periods of unrest during my childhood in the 1970s, although Sierra Leone had always been a relatively peaceful country. However, the civil war led to the complete breakdown of infrastructure and developmental initiatives. Epidemics such as cholera and dysentery continue to plague the country, as well as the more recent Ebola outbreak.
Growing up in Sierra Leone, I witnessed the developmental initiatives of what had been a proud, emerging market in the region. Pioneer educationists such as my father worked so hard to create high-quality instruction in Sierra Leone, and it breaks my heart that the civil war put an end to these initiatives. In response, I decided to create the Science Education Workshops, which aims to make scientific resources more available to African communities, as well as gender mainstreaming programmes. Through the Science Resources Africa programme, I have formed numerous partnerships with likeminded organisations, to complement the government of Sierra Leone’s and other NGOs’ efforts to improve the country’s scientific and technological output. It is my goal to see Sierra Leone rise far above the state it was before the war, and be a source of inspiration and strength to other countries in West Africa.